Bird Watching with Kids

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A simple plan actually came to fruition. FishFam goes birdwatching.

So, I try to come up with these moving, inspirational, heartfelt posts for Sundays. Sundays seem to be the one “down” day for our family as hubs has had to work a lot of Saturdays so far this year. Sundays are usually the days when I assume you get a chance to catch your breath, too. So, I kinda have it in the back of mind to write something along those lines to strengthen my own heart as well as yours.

This isn’t one of those days.

I’ll be honest. I’m not feeling all that moving and inspirational these days.

It could be that I’m tired. Eight hours of sleep (most nights) just doesn’t seem to cut it. It could be my off again, on again relationship with exercise. It could be that I have a lot on my mind reshaping our school days and actually following through with it. It could be that hockey season has started and with it comes two boys’ worth of stinky gear, three weekly practices and two weekly games.

It could be any number of things.

So, instead of being moving and inspirational, I’m just going to tell you about one of our recent outings. It was one of those things that I planned for — that actually happened. Contrary to popular belief, this rarely happens for me. Very rarely. I can have a plan, but inevitably 75% of those plans fall by the wayside. Because, as we know, life is subject to change.

A few weeks ago you might have heard about the Great Backyard Bird Count. It’s a time period during which Cornell University and Audubon conduct surveys across the country to see what birds are hanging out where during a specified time period in North America. Now, you might go, huh? Bird watching?

Yes. Bird watching.

Now, before you click away, let me say this. I kinda raised an eyebrow at the idea of bird watching thing, too. Until we saw The Big Year, a film about birdwatchers, starring Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson. The movie is hilarious and meaningful — and full of beautiful, amazing birds! It was remarkable.

The movie is about these three guys who are having a “big year,” trying to count as many different bird species as they can in a calendar year. You can imagine the hilarity as they travel all over the country in search of birds. And you can imagine that there might be a little “language,” so you’re hereby warned. I wasn’t offended, but it’s there, all the same. (Heads up: If you make a purchase from that Amazon link up there, I will receive a small percentage of the sale.)

Anyway, the movie was great. And it opened our eyes to bird watching. So when I heard about this bird count deal, I thought this would be a great excuse for some downtime, some family educational activity, and some outdoorsy-ness. I told hubs about it and we made a plan.

Snowy Egret, Photo Source: Mike Baird

Lucky for us, FishPapa’s friend from work is an avid bird watcher! Hubs told Scott about the outing and he and his wife, Mary, came along, too. Scott knows everything about birds. So, really, he was the leader of the expedition, including directing us to a good local spot for bird watching, an estuary in Northern San Diego County.

Scott seriously was a pro. It was like being in the movie. He had all the right equipment, including binoculars. for. every. child. How cool is that? And he had this dealy-bob:

It’s a scope that lets you see the birds close up. We saw over twenty species of bird. We only know this because Scott was with us. Otherwise, we would have seen only crows, humming birds, and sea gulls.

Or, at least that is all we could have identified.

It was he that showed us the snowy egret, the northern pintail, the green-winged teal, the bufflehead, and the hooded merganser. Yeah, really. And with the right equipment, it was so much more meaningful than it would have been to the naked eye.

The day, while a little overcast and chilly, was a beautiful one. We got lots of fresh air, some good exercise walking along the path, great conversation with our friends, and got to marvel at God’s handiwork.

It was a very fun day. Simple. And according to plan.

Which in itself is quite amazing.

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? — Matthew 6:25-27

Done anything simple and fun lately?

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  1. I love birding! It really makes you to stop and notice the world around you. It gets me out of my head and allows me to be peaceful and still. A wonderful thing in our fast-paced world.

    My hubby was in a bird id class in college where he had to find and identify 150 birds in one semester. One problem: he was sick and out of school for five weeks. Fortunately, our neighbor had a master’s in biology, had taken the class and taught a similar class at a junior college. He took us out one Sunday equiped with binoculors, spotting scope and tape player. Yes, an old fashioned tape player. He was able to get some of the harder-to-find species to come to us by playing their call on the tape player (today I’m sure “there’s an app for that”). It’s a blessing to have experts to guide you.

  2. This looks so fun. I’m going to look into that bird waching thing. I’m not sure how well it would work with my almost 4 year old, but he’s been obsessed with his binoculars lately.

    We went hiking in the mountains yesterday and saw deer, snow flakes and lovely views. The kid’s favorite part? Peeing in the woods of course.

  3. I am so glad you had a nice time birdwatching, and it is comforting to hear you are going through the blahs… same here. It is encouraging to see you plodding on with your blogging! Thanks!

  4. I just love that you all did this. My husband and I went to a place on vacation where there was a big hawk watching thing going on. Some people were actually calling out the different kinds of hawks they were spotting. To us it would have been so much better if we had known anything about hawks, but we do not. In reality, hawks are my least favorite kind of bird, but the experience was fun. I would love to observe pretty birds! Lol.

  5. One of our most memorable vacations was sluicing and identifying rocks and minerals in Hiddenite, NC. The whole trip cost us under $200 for our family of 6 and the trip was incredibly educational because they had somebody to help you identify and explain the properties of each.

    I echo what Sheila said. If you need to give yourself a blog break, take one. It’s amazing to me that you’ve managed to post everyday now for as long as you have(I have 4 kids and there are some days I don’t even have time to pick up the laptop, let alone write posts.) If you need a day off then go for it. The internet will still be here when you get back.

    1. Oh, I’m good. Thanks, though. I’ve been in the middle of page proofs for The Cookbook. So, that could be some of the fatigue, too. Had a productive day today, though.

  6. We packed a lunch, got in the car, and went exploring. We actually traveled a route we take often in the warmer months but haven’t driven at this time of year, on logging roads, over the spine of the island, to the west coast shores. It was a lovely return to quiet and interesting to see at this less busy time of year. I blogged about it. If you’d like to see the blog, I’ll be happy to supply the link.

  7. You are a wonderful mother, Jessica, and have so many talents. We like to take our dog for walks down our country road to get exercise, watch birds, visit with friends who happen to drive by, and pick up trash at the same time! It’s a simple thing to do, but fun!
    God bless, Kathy in Illinois

  8. Every March we go just outside town to see the Tundra Swans that ‘stop by’ for about a week or two(?) on their path back home from migration. SOOO cool!

    We’ll be putting out more feeders this year too. Birds are fascinating!

  9. Thanks for this, Jessica. My 7yo daughter is newly obsessed with birdwatching after reading a children’s book with a nature-loving heroine, and I’ve been looking for resources.

    We’ll be reading up on the Great Backyard Bird Count, and I’m off to read up on The Big Year to see if it might be appropriate for an almost-7-year-old. (Thoughts?)

    1. Hmmm. I think I would recommend that you watch it first. Families can differ so widely on movies. I felt comfortable letting my bigger boys watch it. But, someone else might have a different criteria, and certainly, different kids. It is PG, if that matters.

  10. I have often wondered how you juggle as many things as you do. I suspect that you are plain old tired. Give yourself some rest! Give yourself some grace. I know that there are some things that must be done, but try to give yourself a break from the things that don’t, and spend some time on you – whatever rests and refreshes you. I’ll be praying for you! I wish I had beautiful words of inspiration for you to give you back what you have given me, but I don’t. Thankfully I can ask our Father – He does.

    1. I actually did get a chance to do that after I wrote this post. Thanks for a great suggestion!

  11. Eight hours a night?! That’s what every mom of two kids 3 and under dreams of (that would be me). I’m trying to enjoy it, I know they’ll be 10 in a blink of an eye. But I know what you mean, as a teen I could sleep for 5 hours and be fine, now I need 8 – 10 to feel well. This post was actually quite inspirational! I want to go bird watching! Actually my best friend’s husband is an avid bird watcher.

  12. I have read your blog for several years now and I want you to know that your posts are ALWAYS inspirational to me. Please don’t be hard on yourself.
    Thank you for what you do.

    1. Well, thanks. Not feeling hard on myself. Just honest. 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement.